Multiple conceptualizations of nature are key to inclusivity and legitimacy in global environmental governance

Environmental Science and Policy
By: , and 



Despite increasing scientific understanding of the global environmental crisis, we struggle to adopt the policies and practices science suggests we should. One of the reasons for this is the general absence of inclusive engagement and dialogue among a wide range of actors with distinct interactions with nature. Furthermore, there is little consideration of the role of language in understanding and shaping human-nature relations across different worldviews and cultures. In this paper, we propose that engagement and dialogue between the different actors involved in, or affected by, efforts to address the global environmental crisis can be strengthened by being mindful of the breadth of the diverse human-nature relations found around the globe. Examininge diverse conceptualizations of “nature” in more than 60 languages, we find that concpetualisaitions of nature fall into three broad clusters: inclusive conceptualizations where humans are viewed as an integral component of nature; non-inclusive conceptualizations where humans are separate from nature; and deifying conceptualizations where nature is understood and experienced within a spiritual dimension. Considering and respecting this rich repertoire for describing, thinking about and relating to nature can help us articulating global environmental governance in ways that resonate across cultures and worldviews. This repertoire also provides a resource we can draw on when defining policies, sustainability scenarios and practical interventions for the future thus offering opportunities for finding solutions to global environmental challenges, such as illustrated by the different laws granting legal personality to nature adopted around the world.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Multiple conceptualizations of nature are key to inclusivity and legitimacy in global environmental governance
Series title Environmental Science and Policy
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2019.10.018
Volume 104
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center
Description 7 p.
First page 36
Last page 42
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